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Manchester's New Century Hall transformed by Sheppard Robson

Above: view of entrance and outside bar area at New Century Hall in Manchester (Sheppard Robson

How do cities preserve their music and performance heritage while updating venues for modern audiences? Following the pandemic, the need to grow a sustainable night-time economy has been an important consideration.

Since its construction in 1963 for the Cooperative Wholesale Society, the well-renowned New Century Hall in Manchester has played host to many famous names in music. Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Lee Lewis once played there as well as home grown talent such as The Hollies. In the 1980's the hall was a venue for the legendary all-night Acid House parties of the MADchester era.

Now, after laying mostly vacant for years, the 1,000-capacity venue has undergone a much-needed transformation by Sheppard Robson, as part of the Federated Hermes International / MEPC-led NOMA development.

Originally linked to New Century House next door, Sheppard Robson’s refurbishment has separated the hall, now named ‘New Century’, from the house to allow both to function autonomously. Several key interventions were made to open up the Grade II-listed structure; as a result, despite being occupied over three floors, the music venue, food hall and creative college are able to work together seamlessly.

Sheppard Robson describes the project:

'The creation of public realm at Sadler’s Yard in 2015 greatly lowered the external ground levels to the west elevation of the Hall, which allowed us to expand what was previously a half basement into an entrance to the new square, with new glazing and doors further activating the frontage of the space.

'By carefully removing a section of the façade, a new pedestrian link has been created to connect Sadler’s Yard, Angel Square and Victoria North.

'Careful repair and stabilisation of the original curtain walling frame and glazing to the upper floor was undertaken, with detailed collaboration between structural engineer Healey Consulting and contractor Russell WHBO. The tiled base of the structure was meticulously cleaned, with individual mosaic tiles retained and re-used for repair.

'Internally, two new stairs have been discretely inserted within the existing concrete waffle structure, in order to improve navigation around the building to both the venue hall and the three levels of the building. Strategically placed new M&E equipment has been installed on the linking structure between New Century and New Century House, as well as tucked behind a new in situ cast concrete wall to the east of the building.

'The new venue hall stairs sit within the original footprint of the first floor space. In order to retain the perceived volume of the venue hall, the stairs are contained within a series of intersecting volumes housing the accommodation and escape stair, lobbies, and storeroom. The original trapezoidal acoustic baffle lighting panels have been carefully cleaned and re-wired to allow for modern controllable lighting displays. The in-situ Alan Boyson and Steven Sykes murals have been carefully repaired and cleaned and once again take pride of place.

'Externally, the works undertaken have largely been of repair. The base of textured grey mosaic has been cleaned and repaired with new and reused tiles and new openings inserted to allow access into the newly refurbished spaces. The black anodised framing of the curtain wall rainscreen has been cleaned and refinished, with new milky blue textured glass panels inserted to replace broken. Louvres have replaced some low-level glazing to facilitate a prep kitchen, with little alteration to the 1960s façade aesthetic.'

Richmal Wigglesworth, associate partner at Sheppard Robson said:

“Through careful and minimal intervention at New Century, we have been able to bring a challenging building back to life. Though the scheme has three distinct uses, fortifying the links between them has resulted in a symbiotic relationship – it’s great to see the natural relationship between the creative college and the venue hall and how they benefit from each other.”


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